Archive for April, 2012

Phone call or face to face meetings – how to get to yes faster!

April 20, 2012

In today’s busy marketplace, having someone agree to meet you face to face is a real gift and a rarity – unless your product or service is close to the top of their priority list.  Yet in our wired world, where we are spending most of the day scanning emails and messages, sometimes we think a face to face meeting is a MUST HAVE – whereas I think of it as a great to have, but definitely not necessary and not the only option for exchanging information!

It’s not that they are not interested in a potential meeting, but their to-do list is growing by the hour and unfortunately you are not one of their top five priorities. But please don’t take it personally. Tele-coffees and planned phone calls are a very easy alternative and one that rarely get’s a negative response. Personally I would rather have a pre-planned 3-4 minute phone call with a busy person where I was able to ask them no more than two quick questions than wait months to get in front of them face to face.

Recently I read online, that an old friend/client (whom I had not physcially seen for 10 years) was  co-chair of the board of an organisation I was having a meeting with. I was connected to her on LinkedIn, so quickly sent an inmail asking if it was possible to have a quick phone call within the next week. As it turned out, I did not get a response until the following week as the person had been away, but they were more than happy to take a call and gave me their personal number. On the pre-arranged day, I phoned in the morning (when unfortunately they were busy) and set up a time for a phone call meeting. They gave me an alternate time and later that day, I had my two questions answered quickly, succintly and I was most grateful. And the whole call took less than three minutes.

The clearer you are on the help you need, the easier you make it for someone to help you

At the opposite end of the scale, I received an email from a third party, who mentioned a mutual friend and asked if I could meet with her the next time I was in Brisbane. She wanted to discuss book writing, professional speaking etc.  As luck would have it, I was flying out of Brisbane the next week and attending a lunch in Brisbane within two weeks, so I was able to give two face to face meeting time  options via email. Let me explain that I live 90 minutes drive from Brisbane and only go there for business or occasionally for direct flights that do not depart from the Gold Coast. On average I would be there once a month.

I suggested we meet at the airport an hour before my flight was due to leave, or the alternate option was to meet for an hour before the lunch meeting I had in the next fortnight. Neither of these were convenient – that’s life.

My alternate offer was to suggest that as I would be driving for at least 90 minutes on the Wednesday between a set time, or 90 minutes return trip from the airport on the Thursday night –  she was welcome to phone me on my hands free mobile during those times and ask whatever questions she wanted. I explained that I like taking calls during these airport drives as it makes the time pass quickly and I can normally give someone more time than they would get in a face to face meeting.

Believe it or not, this person declined that offer too and said they would wait until I was in Brisbane or maybe they were coming down my way and we could meet face to face. I saw that as a missed opportunity and unbeknown to the person, I don’t arrange business meetings on weekends – that is my time out and it would have to be a very, very good client for me to break that rule – not a stranger.

Recently I was referred to a prospect via someone I knew reasonably well, but had met a number of years ago and not seen for some time. The prospect mentioned the referee’s name when they initially made contact. Once the presentation was confirmed, I made contact with the referee – again via LinkedIn – (don’t you just love Linkedin? – it is such a brilliant networking tracking tool) thanked her for the referral, confirmed I was booked to speak to the organisation and asked if she could spare 5 minutes on the phone at a time to suit her (giving her a choice of 3 days) to ask a little bit about the organisation. We had a great phone conversation, which did last longer than 5 minutes, and I gained some real insight into the organisation, much more than I was able to glean from the prospect’s website.

So let’s look at a couple of key points to make sure you get to yes as often as possible and people are responsive to your requests:

1. Be clear on why you want to speak to the person. Are they the only person with the information? Do you know for sure they know the answer to your potential questions? Don’t be surprised or disappointed if they don’t know the answers.

2. Be flexible with your time. I was surprised with suggesting two face to face meeting times or two phone times that none of them were suitable or convenient for this lady who wanted to discuss book writing. Maybe it just wasn’t as important a priority as she thought it was. If someone says they can take your call at 6.30 a.m. or 8.30 p.m. – that is such a gift – if possible move your schedule to accommodate their offer. Or, don’t make your call until you have a clear diary yourself. They are your priority, not vice versa.

3. Respect their time. If you asked for five minutes, then five minutes it is. If they choose to extend, be grateful.

4. Respect their information. One of the most frustrating things I have found with face to face meetings (and probably why I avoid them unless I know  it is a committed recipient) is to take time to meet with someone and then hear or see that they have done nothing with the information. Six months later they ring again and ask for another meeting. And when you check, well what has happened since the last meeting? The answer is –  Zero! They have not acted on anything you discussed.  I normally decline the meeting and suggest that they just check their notes from the last meeting and let me know when they have taken any action.

This might sound bitchy. But life is precious and we all have 24 hours in a day – what we choose to do with that time, is up to us. I always laugh when people say, how do you get time to write so many books? I often tease them and say, “didn’t you know, authors get an extra six hours a day to fit in their writing. Don’t tell anyone though, it’s a secret!” The real secret is  – we all have 24 hours in a day, and allowing for eating and sleeping, we might have 6-10 hours of productive time each day. And our choices may include making time to write, read,  exercise, network, socialise, build friendships,  special time with loved ones, chilling time – to do absolutely nothing but recharge the batteries or choose to share your information often with total strangers.

5. Be courteous – sometimes I will phone someone asking them if I can set up a time to ask them a couple of questions. 90% of the time, they answer the questions on the spot. But I personally think the better and more courteous way is to email them giving them a bit of background (50-60 words) and idea of your questions – no more than 3 questions and your phone numbers. Sometimes they will phone you and give you the answers on the spot. And sometimes you will never hear from them – and that’s okay too. They made a choice too!

The current marketplace is the new normal – it’s still very competitive, buyers are discerning often with restricted budgets, their expectations are as high as they ever were and our marketplace is continually changing due to natural disasters, changes to government policies, plus influences and impacts from international marketplaces. So always value your connections. Be generous with your information and understand the law of reciprocity – what you give out comes back tenfold.

But always reserve the right to say no, not now. Or no, not ever. Or yes definitely! The choice is always with you.